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November 3, 2011 6:41 PM

Judge Rules Ex-Associate's Discrimination Suit Against Sedgwick Can Proceed

Posted by Sara Randazzo

A federal district court judge in New Jersey has denied a motion by Sedgwick asking that a discrimination lawsuit filed against the firm by a former associate be dismissed.

Wilson Campbell claims in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey in February, that the firm discriminated against him because he is black and forced him to resign after learning that he was having a romantic relationship with a white employee of Jersey City's municipal court.

Campbell worked as an associate at Sedgwick (then known as Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold) from 2006 to 2009. During that time, according to court documents, he also served as a part-time municipal court judge in Jersey City.

In his suit, Campbell alleges that Sedgwick treated black attorneys, including him, less favorably than their white counterparts and that he was retaliated against for complaining about the unfavorable treatment. In addition to the firm, Campbell's suit names Sedgwick chair Michael Tanenbaum and New Jersey partners James Keale and Thomas Robertson as defendants.

Campbell claims in his complaint that he told Robertson in February 2009 that he was having a relationship with a white female employee of the Jersey City municipal court. Two days later, Campbell's complaint alleges, Robertson told Campbell that "because of the relationship, you must resign or you will be terminated from your position with the firm."

Sedgwick contends that is only part of the story.

In its motion seeking a partial dismissal of the suit, which was filed in April and rejected by U.S. district judge Esther Salas Wednesday, Sedgwick asserts that Campbell voluntarily resigned from the firm on February 5, 2009, after telling the firm that New Jersey's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct had lodged an ethics complaint against him.

That complaint, according to a document prepared by the committee, stemmed from Campbell's failure to report a three-month-long affair he had with a bailiff assigned to his courtroom—a relationship that his supervisors only became aware of when the woman tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs because, according the the judicial conduct committee, she was distraught that Campbell suddenly "wanted nothing to do with her."

The New Jersey supreme court publicly reprimanded Campbell for failing to disclose the relationship in 2011, saying he violated the code of judicial conduct. Campbell filed his suit against Sedgwick a short time later.

Campbell, who is representing himself in the suit, did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Sedgwick is being represented by Joseph Guarino, a member in Epstein Becker & Green's Newark office. Guarino said the firm would not comment on pending litigation.

A status conference in the case is set for January 12.

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